Djokovic beats Zverev to complete ATP Finals semis lineup

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LONDON — Novak Djokovic ensured the world’s top four players reached the semifinals of the ATP Finals for the first time since 2004 by eliminating Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6 (4) on Friday.

The top-ranked Djokovic lined up Dominic Thiem on Saturday as he goes for a record-tying sixth title at the season-ending tournament, and a first since 2015.

No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal will take on No. 4 Daniil Medvedev in the second semifinal. Nadal is trying for the 10th time to win his first ATP Finals crown.

Medvedev warmed up by blowing away Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3 late Friday in the empty O2 Arena, topping their group with three wins in six sets.

Djokovic pulled out his own big serves in the important moments to reach the semifinals for the ninth time, notably in the tiebreaker when he recovered from a 2-0 deficit.

“Contrary to the last match against Daniil,” said Djokovic, referring to a straight-set loss to Medvedev on Wednesday, “I managed to find the right shots at the right time.”

Djokovic broke for 2-0 lead when Zverev double-faulted on the second break point. He saved two break points at 4-2 before clinching the set with a backhand down the line as he closed in on the net following a serve out wide.

Zverev’s groundstrokes and powerful serve posed more problems for Djokovic in the second set, and the German gained an early advantage in the tiebreaker by reaching a drop shot before hitting an unreturnable smash to lead 2-0.

Djokovic then won five of the next six points and, on his first match point, found the baseline with a penetrating forehand which Zverev could slice only into the net on the stretch.

“In the tiebreaker, again I served well when I needed to close out the match,” Djokovic said.

Thiem, the U.S. Open champion, won a third-set tiebreaker to beat Djokovic in group play last year, helping to eliminate the Serb before the semifinals.

“It was really a thrilling match,” Djokovic said, “so hopefully we can have another great match, this time with a different outcome.”

Medvedev hit 31 winners against Schwartzman and broke the Argentine three times.

The Russian has gone 3-0 in group play after going 0-3 on debut last year.

“I was playing great in previous matches and it’s always good to stay undefeated for the confidence,” Medvedev said.

Nadal has a 3-0 record against him but the last two matches were battles: Nadal won their 2019 U.S. Open final in five sets, and came from 5-1 down in the last set of their ATP Finals group match a year ago.

“I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” Medvedev said.

Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov give Canada 1st Davis Cup title

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MALAGA, Spain — Felix Auger-Aliassime fell to his back behind the baseline, then waited for teammates to race off Canada’s bench and pile on top of him.

A few minutes later, the Canadians finally could lift the Davis Cup.

“I think of us all here, we’ve dreamt of this moment,” Auger-Aliassime said.

Canada won the title for the first time, beating Australia behind victories from Denis Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime.

Auger-Aliassime secured the winning point when he downed Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-4 after Shapovalov opened the day by rolling past Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4.

Seven years after leading Canada to the top of junior tennis, Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov and their teammates finally got to lift the biggest team trophy in their sport.

“We wanted to grow up and be part of the team and try to help the country win the first title,” Shapovalov said, “so everything is just so surreal right now.”

Shapovalov had dropped both his singles matches this week and needed treatment on his back during a three-set loss in the semifinals to Lorenzo Sonego of Italy that lasted 3 hours, 15 minutes. But the left-hander moved quickly around the court, setting up angles to put away winners while racing to a 4-0 lead in the first set.

Auger-Aliassime then finished off his superb second half of the season by completing a perfect week in Spain. He twice had kept the Canadians alive after Shapovalov dropped the opening singles match, and he replaced his weary teammate to join Vasek Pospisil for the decisive doubles point.

This time, Auger-Aliassime made sure the doubles match wouldn’t even be necessary. After his teammates poured onto the court to celebrate with him, they got up and danced around in a circle.

Canada had reached the final only once, falling to host Spain in Madrid in 2019, when Rafael Nadal beat Shapovalov for the clinching point after Auger-Aliassime had lost in the opening match.

But with Auger-Aliassime having since surged up the rankings to his current spot at No. 6, the Canadians are a much more formidable team now. They won the ATP Cup in January and finally added the Davis Cup crown to the junior Davis Cup title Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov led them to in 2015.

Australia was trying for its 29th title and first since current captain Lleyton Hewitt was part of the title-winning team in 2003.

But it was finally time for the Canadians, who were given a wild card into the field when Russia was suspended because of its invasion of Ukraine.

“Look, I think we were very close today,” de Minaur said. “Just wait until the next time we get the same matchup. Hopefully we can get the win and prove that we can do it.”

But Canada will be tough to beat as long as Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov play.

Shapovalov is just 23 and Auger-Aliassime 22, but both already have been Grand Slam semifinalists and Auger-Aliassime ended 2022 as one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour. He won all of his four titles this year, including three straight weeks in October.

He also beat Carlos Alcaraz in the previous Davis Cup stage in September, just after the Spaniard had won the U.S. Open to rise to No. 1 in the rankings. That victory helped send the Canadians into the quarterfinals, which they started this week by edging Germany.

“They’re not kids anymore, that’s for sure. Not after today – well not after the last couple of years,” said Pospisil, the team veteran at 32. “They’ve been crushing it.”

Australia beats Croatia 2-1 to reach Davis Cup final

Day Four - Davis Cup Finals 2022
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MALAGA, Spain – Australia had to fight back twice to reach its first Davis Cup final in 19 years after beating Croatia 2-1.

Lleyton Hewitt’s team recovered from losing the first singles. Then the Australian doubles pair battled back from a set down in the decider.

Australia won its 28th and last title in 2003. It has finally got back to the final.

“I am so proud. Australia has a really rich history in this competition,” said Hewitt, who played a record 43 Davis Cup ties for Australia from 1999-2018.

“We have been fortunate to win it all on a number of occasions a long time ago. And I know what it meant to me as a player to play a final, and I am glad these guys can play it.”

Borna Coric put Croatia ahead by beating Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 6-3, but Alex de Minaur leveled after defeating Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-2 to send it to the doubles.

Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell then secured the semifinal win against Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic by 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-4.

“This is what this team is about, that never-say-die attitude,” De Minaur said.

Canada will face Italy on Saturday in the other semifinal.

In the opener, Kokkinakis struck 11 aces, but Coric was able to break him once in each set.

“On my serve, I felt like it was an ace or he put it back on my toes,” Kokkinakis said.

Cilic, who was on the Croatia team that won the title in 2018, committed 10 double faults. That erratic serve helped De Minaur break Cilic four times and level his head-to-head record with the former U.S Open winner at two wins each.

Thompson and Purcell bettered the more experienced pair of Mektic and Pavic, both ranked in the top 10 in doubles. Thompson and Purcell combined for 13 aces, broke the Croats twice, and never dropped a service game to come back after losing the first-set tiebreaker.

Two-time winner Croatia was the runner-up last year.

“It proved too difficult on the court today,” Cilic said. “(But) for us it has been a great year again after the finals last year to reach the semis.”

The final is on Sunday on the indoor court in Malaga.